cooking minestrone

I am off work until Tuesday next week - and I am glad about it. My place of work is not a happy one and it is probably a blessing that I have been made redundant. Being forced to move on is in all likelihood for the best. I worry about the income of course but we won't have to eat cardboard for a wee while yet and are not in danger of loosing the house, and the kids won't have to give up their clubs either. On a more selfish note, I have so much yarn and fabric stashed away that I will be able to knit/crochet/sew for years to come, with the time to actually do so....

It is still the October holiday and still raining. I asked the kids this morning what they wanted to do and the overwhelming answer was "go to IKEA". Yes, this is true. They love the big blue and yellow house because a) they get to eat out in style (they ARE kids!), b) we always buy meatballs for the freezer, c) if I am in a favourable mood, we buy a bag of frozen cinnamon buns for tea and d) the little ones absolutely love to go to the crèche.

We did of course come away with lots of bits and bobs we didn't need (who doesn't?) but not the tub I wanted to keep my wrapping paper in. They do have big blue bags with zips now! Fantastic. Great for holiday packing. These bags alone were worth the trip.

It was definitely a soup day today. My plan was to make a minestrone, which is really just a thick vegetable soup with either small pasta shapes (my favourite is orzo pasta, rice shaped) or rice. We like ours with fresh white bread rolls and frankfurter sausages. I left the pasta/rice out today because Richard is not a big fan.

First I started a bread dough with 500g strong white bread flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and a sachet of fast acting yeast dissolved in about 300ml warm water (with an added teaspoon of sugar).

I waited for the yeast to bubble before kneading the dough until it was smooth and warm. I usually stick the clingfilm covered bowl in the tumble drier on a pile of still warm clothes but today the dough was proofing in front of the fire guarded by Lupin.

Meanwhile the wee man was snoozing on the sofa, feeling rather poorly all of a sudden. He slept for a solid 2 hours, woke up to eat his cinnamon bun and went to bed.

I chopped all the vegetables leftovers I found in the fridge to add to my minestrone. Today's selection was celeriac (I love this knobbly root for cooking), carrots, celery, courgette (last from the garden), cabbage (the pointy kind), leeks, pepper and potatoes. To this I added some frozen green beans and a can of borlotti beans. I am too lazy to soak beans, the cans are perfectly good (but I rinse the beans because the liquid is a bit slimy). The borlotti beans and potatoes give the soup a bit of thickness.

Sometimes I use cubes of bacon to add some extra flavour but the fridge was rather empty. I softened the "hard" veggies in some olive oil, then added the leftover tomato sauce that Sam had made last night. I would usually use a can of tinned tomatoes but don't like to waste food. The sauce had a mild "Italian" flavour (Sam's words). I then added boiling water, a stock cube and pepper. With the lid firmly in place, the soup was gently bubbling away.

After a wee while (maybe 45 minutes) I added the remaining vegetables and placed the lid back on until all vegetables were soft and the soup was thick. the only seasoning necessary was some salt and pepper. Sometimes I cook a chilli pepper with the soup to add a bit of a kick. There was none in the fridge today.

Then it was time to shape the rolls. Lupin the cat had guarded the dough whilst it was proofing. I don't usually bother with shaping nice neat rolls, just flatten the dough with my palms to about 2 cm thickness, cut them roughly into child hand sized pieces. A little bit of milk helps the seeds to stick to the rolls. My favourite seeds are the nigella seeds.

15 minutes in a 200 degree centigrade oven turned them into these:

They usually crack open at the top but I used the steam function in the oven today, which turned them shiny instead. I prefer the cracks personally, more rustic.

An easy dinner, if a little time consuming. Of course there was the usual "what is this" and "I cannot possibly eat courgette" and "it did taste really bad" (the courgette). The soup looks a bit murky but I'll try to take another photo when we eat the leftovers tomorrow. Also, I am no Masterchef, the mess on the plate would get me kicked out.... Life is too short.

Have a lovely Thursday evening.



  1. I think your minestrone looks wonderful, and your bread rolls - who cares what Masterchef would say! I'm glad we're not the only family who love a trip to Ikea - it's so easy - the food, the ice cream at the checkouts, the pointless items I put in my trolley...and now they have pick and mix it's even more tempting.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement about the knitting, much appreciated. x



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